An article in The Times this week
The rapid rise of Steve Darcis is a lesson for British tennis
Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent
Little more than 15 months ago, Steve Darcis was just another face with a racket bag dropped where he could find a spare seat at outposts such as Exmouth, Sunderland and Sheffield as he attempted - and often failed - to qualify for ATP Futures events.
Today, he is Belgium's No1, with a world ranking of 49, has won twice on the main tour, does not have to qualify for Masters Series events and easily makes the main draw for grand-slam tournaments - and those he left behind, including a fair few British players who seem to have taken up permanent residence at the lower levels, should ponder what he has that they do not.
Darcis, 24, believes it is little more than an injury-free block of time and the belief that, if he could piece together a sequence of back-to-back tournaments, something would click.
Yesterday, with every other court emptied by a lunchtime deluge, he continued with bravura to a 7-5, 7-6 victory over Ivan Ljubicic, the Croat, in the first round of the BNL D'Italia Masters. Tomorrow, his prize will be to play Novak Djokovic, the No 3 seed from Serbia.
The irony of Darcis's progress will not be lost on the LTA, much of whose investment in the past two years has been designed to incorporate the best of what made Belgium such a noted tennis success in the first decade of the century. What Britain could do with is a few players with his character.
Darcis is two inches short of the 6ft mark generally regarded as the least a male player needs to be to survive the ATP Tour “assault course”. He makes up for lack of inches with a neat, clean-hitting game and is blessed with an indefatigable nature best suited to the clay surface on which, in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, last July, he won a tournament that he almost did not enter.
“My coach persuaded me to play when I did not think I was prepared. I won 7-6, 7-6 in the first round of qualifying and then I felt like I was flying. I was hardly missing a ball,” he said yesterday. “I had to go back to Challenger events because my ranking was not high enough to get into tour events and endured some first-round losses this year, but my game came back again.” To the extent that he won the Memphis tournament in February and does not look out of place here.